For the most part, we have all grown up in a gender-defined world. Clothes make up a small portion of what has already been pre-designated to us based on the body parts we’re born with. While newly genderless traditions, such as nonbinary gender reveals, have become more and more popular lately, society continues to dictate stylistic decisions by gender.
Despite these gender standards, we’ve just started to see the popular resurgence of men wearing clothes deemed outside of their gender. A notable example of this is Oscar Isaac wearing a Thom Browne skirt suit for the “Moon Knight” premiere. But regardless of all the progress made, many often feel that we still have to perform our gender to fit in. This involves strictly following this set of socially constructed norms.
Fortunately, social media has begun to play a substantial role in reteaching us the meaning of these norms and how to formulate one’s personal style. Creators such as @jazzzymadeit, @soyraka and @yesconnieishere on TikTok show how people can wear what they want, exploring the intersection of their own interests with norms of the “traditional” two genders, regardless of their own. For many like myself, seeing creators online daring to dress how they want emphasizes the simple fact that the most important thing about wearing clothes is feeling good about wearing them and wanting to wear them.
Similarly, genderless fashion ties in heavily to experimental fashion. Also on TikTok, creators such as @myramagdalen or @tinyjewishgirl have become extremely popular for their somewhat unusual or strange fashion choices. Whether that be in taping keyboards to their chests or wearing high-fashion versions of underpants in freezing New York weather, more and more people are beginning to step outside of not just their own comfort zones, but society’s comfort zones as well. In doing this, these daring humans take away the stigma that the clothes we wear often convey, consequently proving that nothing can be too weird to do.
Seeing these individuals taking chances with clothes — or items — I hadn’t even considered wearable emphasizes that norms are redefinable because we’ve defined them for ourselves. I can make fashion choices that I wouldn’t have before, stepping outside of norms, because who’s to say that those choices are wrong?
Despite the popularization of genderless and experimental fashion in Hollywood, there is something to be said about the intersection of money, status and fashion. These individuals can risk to dress how they want and push boundaries because they have the money, and barring controversy, can continue to have a popular following.
In the same vein, high-fashion clothing brands that push for genderless, expressionist fashion, such as Rick Owens, Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto and, most obviously, Thom Browne, are only available for those who can pay a high price for it. Therefore, genderless fashion has successfully penetrated the upper echelons of society, but not significantly anywhere else in society. As in professional settings, men are held to a standard of wearing suits and ties, while women may be forced to wear skirts or dresses and high heels. It’s up to us to change this norm that continuously pervades our societal expectations.
Fashion is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg of how our generation is exploring and redefining how gender should play a role in our everyday lives. In my own fashion journey, I’ve seen that the first thing people notice about strangers is what they’re wearing — Instagram accounts like @watchingnewyork prove exactly this. I would go so far as to deem the clothes we put on our backs the most important first glance of ourselves. We don’t even have to speak for people to make instant assumptions about us based on what we’re wearing!
In my case, being able to see representations of genderless clothes on cisgender women like myself online has unlocked some key parts of my fascination with fashion. Most importantly, it’s given me the confidence to wear what I want to wear. Growing up, I consistently felt like I couldn’t find clothes that expressed how I felt or wanted to be perceived. And even when I started to, those clothes would be labeled as “tomboy-ish” or “unladylike.” Genderless fashion, not conforming to any sort of norm, has wholly given me hope for a labelless future.
I’m not entirely sure if my evolved clothing choices have impacted how others view me, but I do certainly know it’s changed how I view myself. I’ve stopped questioning or resisting my urges to wear certain pieces of clothing and started embracing the fun of endless mixing and matching. Clothes are made for us — we’re not made for them. Understanding this distinction is essential to seeing that what we see as normal now is no more than an outdated, historical social construct.
Genderless, “neutral” fashion is the future and is for everyone, regardless of whether or not you identify with the binary, and if we try hard enough, the abolition of gendered distinction could be the greatest mark that our current generations leave behind on society.